NIH Awards Three-Year Grant to Pharmacy Faculty-Student Researchers to Study Alternative Treatments for Hypertension

Can kale lower your blood pressure?

Fawzy ElbarbryPacific University Pharmacy Professor Fawzy Elbarbry, along with co-investigator and Assistant Professor Michael Espiritu and a set of pharmacy students, hope to find out.

The National Institute of Health has awarded Elbarbry $365,966 for a three-year study as part of its “Support for Research Excellence” program. This is Pacific’s first grant under the program, which is intended to support institutions that enroll significant numbers of students not typically represented in biomedical research. The grant will enable nine undergraduate students and three doctor of pharmacy students to conduct research to support the study “Antihypertensive Effect of Food-Origin Isothiocyanate Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase Inhibitors.”

Elbarbry and his team are studying the effect of isothiocyanates — a chemical compound found in such vegetables as kale, bokchoy, broccoli, cauliflower and others — on hypertension, commonly referred to as high blood pressure.

“It took me 15 grant applications to get awarded the first NIH R16 grant at Pacific's history,” Elbarbry said. “I am very proud!"

A breakthrough in hypertension treatment would be enormously significant. Hypertension is thought to affect about one-third of adult Americans, or about 75 million people, and resulted in a 2019 death rate of 19.9 people per 100,000. The American Heart Association estimates that the total cost of treating hypertension in the U.S. in 2025 will be $225 billion.

The question Elbarbry and his team will explore is whether isothiocyanates can form the basis of a cheaper, effective treatment for hypertension, or help prevent its occurrence.

“Since ITCs are natural products and rich in the diet,” the grant summary reads, “they can provide a viable option for hypertensive patients and prehypertensive individuals who are unable or unwilling to use current antihypertensive agents because of their cost, adverse effects, or risk of drug-drug interactions.”

The grant will support undergraduate students working during summers with Elbarby and Espiritu in the pharmacy lab. Elbarbry’s research team will also include Jon Taylor, research assistant in the School of Pharmacy, as well as three PharmD students in their third year Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience. Dr. Christophe Morisseau, a research scientist at the University of California, Davis, will serve as a consultant on the project.

Photo: Professor Fawzy Elbarbry

Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022